Good Samaritan Protections Included in CJR Bill
This week the Massachusetts House of Representatives took up the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, H.4011. I am excited that the criminal justice reform bill we voted on includes a version of my Good Samaritan bill, H.3050. This legislation, An Act promoting access to emergency medical services for minors, which I filed this session with Senator Joan Lovely of Salem, provides medical amnesty to individuals under 21 who in good faith, seek or obtain emergency medical attention for himself or herself, if he or she is experiencing an overdose, or for another individual. In Baldwinville, MA a 15 year old in Massachusetts spent 2 weeks in a coma due to alcohol poisoning because her friends were too afraid to call paramedics for help. These incidents can be prevented if medical assistance is called upon, but often times people illegally using or in possession of alcohol are fearful of arrest even in cases in which someone close to them needs emergency medical assistance at a scene of a suspected overdose.
Massachusetts passed a Good Samaritan law in 2012 that provides limited immunity for possession of a controlled substance. However, the law's scope is limited in its definition of controlled substance as alcohol is not included. The legislation I filed jointly with Senator Joan Lovely also protects individuals who call for emergency assistance in the event of an alcohol overdose. Several colleges and universities in the state have already implemented their own medical amnesty policies that encourage students to look out for the health and safety of their peers, but Massachusetts is 1 of 13 states without a statewide medical amnesty policy for alcohol. Health of an individual should always be the first priority, but often times teenagers in possession of alcohol are hesitant to pick up the phone and call for help because they fear getting in trouble with authorities. Yet, the law should never disincentivize individuals from taking prompt action when a person's health and safety are in jeopardy. The language in the omnibus criminal justice reform bill would protect both the caller and the overdose victim from prosecution and arrest. While underage drinking is far too common, and this policy does not seek to condone underage drinking, frankly it's unproductive to look the other way and pretend that it isn't happening when lives are at stake.